Drag Racing Photography’s New Young Gun
by Martin Libhart
Nostalgia Drag World magazine is fortunate to have 35 contributing photographers that bring quality images to you from nostalgia events across not only the USA, but from Australia, Canada and the UK as well. We all know that drivers and pit crews work their tails off at these events, but the typical drag racing fan has little knowledge of just how hard these photographers work, too. A race day includes not only working ‘along the wall’ from the first burnout until the last - but a subsequent session stretching into the middle of the night to edit images captured that day, upload those edits to the publication for whom the photographer is on assignment, checking equipment, charging batteries, reviewing qualifying and elimination schedules for the next day, showering, and….oh yes, catching a couple of hours of sleep.
At Nostalgia Drag World, we have two father/son photographer teams. Mike Sopko Sr. and his son, Mike Jr. have been shooting for years, and have a wealth of knowledge in our sport. Our other team is Steven and Dallas Wilson. While Steven has been photographing motor sports for fifteen years, Dallas is somewhat newer to the profession - Dallas is only 10 years old. But when you consider the fact that he has been photographing drag racing for three years, that’s a significant part of his life.
The more I have gotten to know the Wilsons, the more intriguing their story. Steven’s wife and the mother of Dallas died of brain cancer when she was 26. Dallas was only two years old when he lost his mom. Tragic as this surely was, it has led to a father/son bond in many ways. Dallas began attending drag races with his dad, and eventually managed to get his hands on a camera. Over the following years, he developed a true passion for drag racing and photographing this great sport – just like his Dad.
As for that eventual question about his photo equipment, we’ll answer that right now. Dallas – like his dad – prefers Canon. A good choice! (pardon my editorial comment). Dallas uses a Canon 60D body, and often uses a 28-80 zoom lens – although he has been known to grab his dad’s 70-200 lens on occasion. Steven also uses Canon equipment – bodies, lenses, and speedlights.
Keeping in mind the fact that Dallas is ten years old, what does he like to do in his spare time? He likes to draw racecars, and he also likes to photograph bugs – something he surely picked up from veteran drag racing photographer and friend, Roger N. Richards. When asked about his favorite class of cars to photograph, he says ProMods and Nostalgia Funny Cars. His favorite driver? John Hale. And his favorite track? Dallas does not hesitate to say MO-KAN DRAGWAY in Asbury, MO. Many of you know this track, and its history. The track is still in operation today after 51 years, hosting a variety of awesome nostalgia events. Dallas represents the 3rd generation of the Wilson family to call this facility a favorite.
Being such a young photographer does not come without a hassle or two. While Dallas has been fortunate to accompany his dad along the wall at some events, other tracks and/or sanctioning bodies are reluctant to grant media credentials to such a young ‘pro’. Even so, Dallas and his dad are determined to make the best of the situation. Many times, while Steven captures action along the wall, Dallas spends time in the pits to photograph cars and drivers, or in the stands to get the spectator’s perspective of an event. According to Dallas, one of the neatest things about working the pits is getting to meet drivers - like his friend John Hale, who drives the Mike Burkhart AA/FC.
Today, Steven is engaged to Sonya Tucker. Between drag races, spending time at the lake with Dallas and Steven, and eating Steven’s fare from the grill, obviously Sonya has bought-in to this dynamic duo and their lifestyle. It looks like a wise decision to me.
I had the opportunity to work with Steven and Dallas at a recent event at Tulsa Raceway Park. I observed them standing together, comparing images, and couldn’t resist capturing this moment.
Dallas wants to be a photographer for the school newspaper when he gets to high school. He would then like to attend college to earn a photojournalism degree, and ultimately become an NHRA professional photographer. You know…I think he might just make it. Keep up the great work Dallas!!
(Check out these great images captured by young Dallas Wilson on the next page)
Nostalgia Drag World - by Martin Libhart; photo by Martin Libhart Photography